Groups See Palisades Nuclear Reactor License Extension as “Risky Rubberstamp”
Contact: Kevin Kamps, NIRS, (301) 270-6477 ext. 14; cell (240) 462-3216
Alice Hirt, Don’t Waste Michigan, (616) 218-6511
Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, (734) 770-1441
Terry Lodge, Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy, (419) 255-7552
Covert, Michigan — Today the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced its approval of a twenty year license extension for Consumers Energy’s Palisades nuclear power plant. Rather than shutting down in 2011, Palisades now has permission to operate till 2031. Sharp reactions to the announcement came from a coalition of environmental groups officially opposing the license extension.
“We now know that NRC actually stands for Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission,” said Kevin Kamps of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) in Washington, D.C. “Since 2000, NRC has shamefully rubberstamped all 48 applications for reactor license extensions that have come before it, but Palisades may well be the riskiest rubberstamp yet,” Kamps said.
The NRC’s decision to re-license Palisades came the day after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the NRC and nuclear industry to a federal court decision in California that ruled NRC must consider the risk of terrorist attacks in its environmental impact statement proceedings. The Michigan coalition raised terrorism issues in its comments and contentions to NRC opposing the Palisades license extension.
“The Supreme Court has told NRC it can no longer ignore the threat of terrorist attacks against nuclear facilities,” said Kamps. “But the very next day, NRC ignored the terrorist threat at Palisades, by granting the license extension to this radioactive bull’s eye on the Lake Michigan shoreline without addressing our concerns. We are reviewing our legal options,” Kamps said.
“Palisades likely has the most radiation-embrittled reactor vessel in the country,” said Alice Hirt of Don’t Waste Michigan in Holland. “In an emergency, Palisades’ reactor vessel could rupture from Pressurized Thermal Shock (PTS) – extremely high pressure and dramatic temperature change -- leading to a meltdown and catastrophic radiation release that could kill many thousands downwind,” Hirt said.
Palisades first violated NRC’s embrittlement screening criteria in 1981, just ten years after reactor start up. Despite its weakening of the PTS standards several times over the past 25 years, NRC now knows that Palisades will violate current safety regulations as soon as 2014, just three years into the twenty-year-long license extension. However, NRC is poised to “revise” its PTS rule yet again, accommodating Palisades till its extended license expires in 2031.
“We will fight this weakening of safety regulations at every turn,” vowed Hirt. “We must protect our communities against the risk of a Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe right here on the shoreline of Lake Michigan.”
“The NRC is a shill for the nuclear power industry,” said Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes in Monroe, Michigan. “We’ve challenged NRC’s allowing Palisades to defer vital reactor internal inspections until after the license extension is granted, but our concerns have been completely ignored and remain unanswered.”
“The last time NRC allowed a nuclear utility to defer vital safety inspections, we almost lost Toledo,” said Terry Lodge of the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy, who has served as the environmental coalition’s attorney in its two-year-long intervention against the Palisades license extension. “NRC’s own Inspector General reported that the agency, rather than protecting public health and safety and the environment, gave priority to the company’s profit margin.”
He was referring to the severely corroded Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo, which in 2002 came within 3/16ths of an inch of a loss of coolant accident, risking a meltdown and disastrous radioactivity release.
“Palisades needs to be shut down, before it melts down,” Hirt concluded.
“Now that the NRC has ruled, we can leave its kangaroo court and go to a real court to address our many environmental contentions,” said Keegan. The coalition filed extensive comments last May on the NRC’s environmental impact statement proceedings regarding the license extension.
The coalition also has a number of open contentions and appeals at NRC, such as concerning the high-level radioactive waste storage facilities at Palisades violating NRC’s earthquake regulations.
The coalition opposing Palisades’ license extension includes three dozen groups in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes, including Clean Water Action, the League of Women Voters of Michigan, Michigan Environmental Council, the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. For more information on the coalition’s efforts, please see http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/licensing/palisades.htm
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